Accessibility October 11, 2020
SEDB founder Zamir Dhale highlights challenges faced by Deafblind passengers during air travel
Traveling independently as a person with disability anywhere in India is challenging. For a Deafblind person, it is even more. Zamir Dhale, Founder-President of the Society for the Empowerment of the Deafblind, has highlighted the specific challenges of air travel in a detailed and powerful Facebook post.
Being able to travel independently is a right that everyone should enjoy, regardless of disability. Yet, despite various awareness programmes this remains a dream for people with disabilities in India. Even today, there are reports of passengers in wheelchairs or children with autism facing insensitive treatment.
For deafblind people, air travel is even more challenging, something that not many people are sensitised about. This has been highlighted in a detailed Facebook post by Zamir Dhale, Founder-Director, Society for the Empowerment of the Deafblind (SEDB).
Rare disability, little awareness
Deaf blindness is a rare disability that combines hearing and vision impairments. People with deaf blindness face challenges of communication and mobility. They experience great neglect and discrimination, something SEDB works to highlight.
In his post, Zamir has highlighted three instances that underline the uncertainty, confusion, and anger he experienced at the hands of airport/airline staff. Through the video, he wants to draw attention to how the change in policy when it comes to air travel for people with disabilities has made life harder for deafblind people.
Under the new policy, people with deaf blindness must be accompanied by an interpreter or an escort while taking a flight.
Deafblind passengers do not have enough money to pay for escorts while traveling alone. Why do airlines not allow me to travel by myself and instead insist that an escort or helper accompany me? I spend my own money on air tickets and cannot afford to book tickets for friends to come along and help me. – Zamir Dhale, Founder-Director, Society for the Empowerment of the Deafblind
All three instances Zamir has mentioned in his post reinforce the stereotype that deafblind people are dependent, as people incapable of moving around on their own. In every instance, Zamir could finally travel only after prolonged arguments with the airline staff and being subject to endless waiting. He was given escorts who had no idea how to communicate with a deafblind person.
Click here to watch the video
“I could not hear what she escort was saying, and I finally understood that she was telling me I could not take the flight and return home”, he explains the video. “Other passengers boarded, and the flight took off. I was informed much later!”.
In one instance the airline staff asked him for his parents’ number. “I refused to share it as I am an independent person to which I was told I would have to cancel my travel plans. I refused to leave the airport until I could proceed. Everyone there was staring at me”.
The fact that these incidents are not limited to a specific airline or airport alone and point to a larger systemic problem. As an empowered and aware deaf blind person, Zamir can fight back when faced with such situations. Many others are not able to and such attitudes only serve to reinforce greater isolation.
“My aim is that this video should be shared widely, among the public and the government”, says Zamir. “Every airline such as IndiGo, Air Asia, Go Air, etc need to understand that deaf blind people have the right to travel independently. They should have helpers to help them board the aircraft without any troubles. Airline staff and crew members need to learn tactile signage so that deafblind can understand the gestures easily. They should not discriminate against any person with disability and give the same opportunities”.
Watch in Sign Language
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